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Princeville Cleans Cemetery to Increase Tourism

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PRINCEVILLE — For the first time in years, Ora Pettit can visit the graves of her father and grandmother. Until now, she says, the Princeville cemetery was too overgrown.

"You'd be stepping on snakes and stepping all over other graves trying to get to the one that you want, and you still can't find the one you're looking for," Pettit explains.

This is not the case, any more. The Edgecombe County town is using state grant money to clean up the old cemetery and hoping to become a future stop for people on "heritage" vacations.

Princeville was founded by freed slaves. Many of them are buried right here. No one could see their final resting places until now.

"I'm sure there are quite a few that haven't been seen in 10 or 15 years in this area, maybe some that are longer than that," states Pettit.

The cemetery is one of several sites being renovated for visitors. Town hall will eventually become ablack historymuseum.

"If things go as planned, a national park service trail would run by the cemetery, past several historic buildings and end up here at the history dike on the banks of the Tar River. By design, vacationers could see all the highlights Princeville has to offer in one simple trip," said Pettit.

"There's a great amount of history here, a great amount of heritage here. It's taken us a while to get to this point, but we're just so pleased and so thankful to be where we are right now," Pettit said.

Once everything is ready, the town's next big job is to attract vacationers. Now that historic landmarks are more accessible, organizers believe that job will be the easy part.

The clean up on the 14 acre cemetery began last April. It should be complete sometime in the next two weeks.